Sitting on the porch doin’ some heavy pondering…
Two weeks after the Madrid bombings, Kathleen Parker, the sage of South Carolina, takes up the issue…and still gets it wrong:
Timed just three days before the country’s election, the train explosions that killed nearly 200 and wounded 1,800 had the desired result.
One day conservative Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, among the staunchest U.S. allies in the war on Iraq, was certain to win election for a third consecutive term. Boom! Seventy-two hours later, he’s gone, and newly elected socialist leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero immediately begins threatening to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.
Any way you cut it – however one explains the electoral shift – that’s effective terrorism.
Some have explained Aznar’s overthrow as a protest against his secretive government rather than as a concession to terrorists. In the immediate aftermath of the bloodbath, the Aznar government attributed the bombings to Basque separatists – not an unlikely supposition given decades of attacks by the ETA, a terrorist group seeking to make the Basque region of northern Spain into an autonomous homeland.
It’s possible that the Spanish vote was a mandate for truth in government. More likely, it was exactly as it will be interpreted by the terrorists – a massive display of appeasement by a people reeling from the sight of human body parts propelled from exploding train cars. They effectively said that Spain would withdraw support from the imperialist United States if terrorists would just leave them in peace. (my emphasis)
Seldom has mythology arisen so quickly about an event as it has with regard to the election results in Spain. Hordes of conservative pundits in the United States have rushed to condemn the unexpected defeat of the right-wing Popular Party as a vote for the appeasement of terrorism. According to the conservative conventional wisdom, Spanish voters, in an appalling act of cowardice, reacted to the terrorist bombings in Madrid by ousting the party that had loyally supported the Bush administration’s war on terror, and especially the war in Iraq.
Such an interpretation profoundly misreads the election results. Although Al Qaeda may believe that the outcome vindicates a strategy of intimidation, there is no evidence that Spanish voters intended to convey a message of appeasement. Indeed, in his first news conference, the new prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, emphasized that combating terrorism would be a top priority of his government. Spain has been resolute all along in helping the United States identify and disrupt Al Qaeda cells in that country. Now that Spanish blood has been shed on Spanish soil by the terrorists, that resolve is likely to be strengthened, not weakened.
But just because the Spanish people are determined to combat radical Islamic terrorism does not mean that they have an obligation to endorse the U.S. intervention in Iraq. The election results confirm that a majority of Spaniards make a distinction between those two missions. That is not surprising, because large majorities around the world have made a similar distinction. Indeed, it is a distinction that seems to elude few people — except for a majority of conservatives in the United States.
Public opinion surveys before, during, and after the Iraq war showed that 80 to 90 percent of Spanish voters opposed the U.S. policy. Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar’s government took a great risk in defying such overwhelming sentiment by supporting the U.S. war and occupation. It should not come as a surprise that, in a healthy democratic system, a political party that arrogantly ignores the public’s near consensus on an important issue may go down to defeat in the next election.
True, opinion polls showed the Popular Party with a modest lead over the opposition Socialists before the Madrid bombings. That was largely because the Iraq war had faded as a salient issue for most voters. The bombings of the commuter trains again elevated the prominence of the Iraq issue. And when that happened, voters remembered their irritation with the Aznar government.
What do you call a Monday Morning quarterback who still gets it wrong sixteen days later?
Besides Ryan Leaf, I mean….